Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Trauma

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Trauma

CBT Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, CBT, is a treatment modality that helps individuals learn to identify unhelpful thought patterns that negatively impact their emotions and behavior. CBT is based on the theory that thoughts influence an individual's emotions, therefore influencing their behavior. Unhelpful or distorted thoughts cause negative emotions which ultimately impact how we behave and possibly lead to a variety of mental health struggles. Unhelpful thoughts can be spontaneous or automatic, making them challenging to identify or adjust. CBT focuses on identifying these negative thought patterns/ perceptions and replacing them with more objective or accurate thoughts. If you're looking for more information on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy click here. If you are having difficulty adjusting after a traumatic event or are the parent of a child who is, several different modalities of CBT focus on addressing trauma.

Childhood and Adult Trauma 

Trauma is defined by the American Psychological Association as any experience that results in significant levels of fear, helplessness, dissociation, confusion, and other feelings that are disruptive to daily functioning. Traumatic events can be perpetrated by people (abuse, war, accidents) or naturally occur (death, earthquake, hurricane, etc.). The most important aspect of identifying a traumatic event is the individual's long-term reaction to said event. Two individuals may experience the same kind of trauma where one individual is unaffected, but the other experiences trauma responses or develops a trauma and stressor-related disorder. Immediate reactions can include shock or denial. Long-term symptoms can include emotional disturbances, flashbacks, difficulty with relationships, and physiological symptoms.

Trauma can greatly impact a child’s mental well-being, but it can also have an effect on the child’s caregivers and family system. Addressing trauma symptoms individually and with the caregiver/family system simultaneously provides a well-rounded approach that can positively impact the child internally and externally. We like to work with parents and children individually until we reach a place where both the child and caregiver are ready for conjoint sessions. If you find that your child is experiencing emotional or behavioral difficulty after a traumatic event/events or your family system is having difficulty adjusting, finding a clinician that practices TF-CBT could be helpful.

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is a treatment modality created for Children, adolescents, and their families who have experienced a traumatic event. TF-CBT was originally developed to treat children and adolescents who had experienced sexual abuse but is now used for treating many forms of trauma and abuse. TF-CBT helps children address traumatic events through processing, addressing unhelpful thoughts, and developing coping skills. One unique quality of TF-CBT is the parent training component involving the non-offending parent. This involves parents learning skills to effectively help their child during this difficult time and improve the parent-child relationship.

Trauma Focused CBT

TF-CBT is a short-term treatment that usually consists of about 8-25 sessions. Trauma Focused CBT begins with individual sessions with the child and separate individual parenting sessions. After making some progress individually, the counselor will have joint parent-child sessions. Similar to CBT, individual therapy aims to improve negative thinking and behaviors as a reaction to trauma. TF-CBT is an evidence-based approach that has been compared to other treatment modalities like non-directive play therapy, Supportive therapy, and child-centered therapy and found to yield greater gains for the child and parents.

There are three phases of TF-CBT which include: Stabilization, trauma narration and processing, and integration and consolidation. Within these stages are eight treatment components which can be remembered with the acronym “Practice”

  • Psychoeducation and parenting skills: teaching effective parenting skills and psychoeducation on child abuse and reactions to abuse.

  • Relaxation Techniques: Teaching coping skills before processing trauma is prioritized so the child can experience the discomfort associated with that and apply that in day-to-day life.

  • Affective expression and regulation: Work on identifying, expressing, and managing emotional responses

  • Cognitive coping and processing: Teaching the connection between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors 

  • Trauma Narration and processing: Working on gradual exposure, recounting events, and processing unhelpful thoughts about the traumatic event

  • Invivo exposure: Gradual exposure to reminders of the traumatic event

  • Conjoint sessions: Work on enhancing family dynamics including communication and sharing trauma narration with the caregiver.

  • Enhancing personal safety and future growth: Educating the client on maintaining safety, healthy relationships, and managing future stressors.

Benefits of Trauma-Focused CBT Include:

  • Processing grief

  • Targetting maladaptive thinking

  • Addressing emotional and behavioral responses

  • Addressing symptoms of PTSD

  • Strengthening interpersonal and coping skills

  • Strengthening parenting skills

  • Strengthening the parent/caregiver-child relationship skills

  • Improve strained relationships

Trauma-Focused Therapy at Heritage Counseling

Trauma can be hard to navigate on your own. At Heritage Counseling & Consulting, we have a dedicated team of clinicians trained in a wide variety of treatment modalities that can help treat and manage trauma. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a treatment that has proved very effective for the treatment of trauma and one that Heritage finds extremely beneficial to clients. If you or someone you know has experienced a traumatic event or has a traumatic response in any way, please reach out to Heritage Counseling and schedule a consultation at 214-363-2345. Our talented administrative team will discuss your unique situation with you and pair you with an experienced clinician that is fit for your needs. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a great non-invasive treatment option for trauma, so please call reach out to Heritage Counseling for more information.